Friday, December 31, 2010
Koons even wrapped a CT Scanner for a children's hospital as part of the RxART program.
I'm guessing my goofy penchant for all things felt will continue next year.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Let me start by saying that I may be predisposed to like this book based on content alone. The novel takes an insider's look at the New York art scene from auction houses, to galleries, to the artists themselves. And since I'm a big fan of fine art, An Object of Beauty had me enthralled from the opening moments.
The book tells the story of Lacey Yeager, a young, beautiful, ambitious women set on climbing her way to the top of the art gallery world, even if it means engaging in some questionable activities. The story is told ingeniously by Lacey's friend Daniel. I love how the book gets so caught up in Lacey's story that you forget Daniel is telling it. Then, just at the right moments, Daniel pulls you out of the narrative and gives you a paragraph or two of insight.
It's obvious that Martin is a fan of art. Some of the most engaging moments in the book are musings on art and artists. I think Martin secretly wishes to be an art critic. Maybe that's why he's cast Daniel as a successful art writer.
But what makes An Object of Beauty such an engaging read is Martin's ability to effortlessly present characters and stories. This book seems almost obvious; like it wrote itself, as if the story and characters always existed and just now appeared magically on the page. Never do words get in the way of the characters. Never does plot, or structure, or character development get in the way of the story. It's a testament to Steve Martin's talent that it's as if there is no effort involved in writing this book because as a writer I know that's not the case.
Of course, there's also a sophisticated humor that runs throughout the book. Lacey Yeager is nothing if not quick witted. Many of the chapters end with her sharp, funny statements that make you want to hang out with her. And there are plenty of other funny moments that made me laugh. I have to note a reference to one of my favorite Steve Martin movies, L.A. Story. In one of its most memorable scenes, Steve Martin's character and one of his friends visit a museum. While there, Steve reveals his secret roller skates and glides through the galleries while his friend video tapes him. You can imagine my delight then, at this exchange from An Object of Beauty between Lacey and Daniel in reference to an Italian furniture exhibit at the Guggenheim:
Lacey: "I'd rather fuck an Italian than sit on his furniture."
Daniel: "You didn't like it?"
Lacey: "I guess I was unclear. No."
Daniel: "How come?"
Lacey: "Taste? Only one thing could have made it better."
Daniel: "What's that?"
Lacey: "Roller skates."
Steve Martin isn't afraid to make fun of the absurdities of the contemporary art world. Take, for example, the conversation that happens at a party attended by the art-world elite. The discussion turns to a lamentation on the end of real art movements like Cubism, Surrealism, Minimalism, Pop, etc. (That in itself is funny because at the time, I don't think anyone would have considered Pop a "real" art movment.") In response, the party guests start to enumerate new categories of art including "pale art" (faint things with not much going on in them), "high-craft OCD" (those guys who take a thousand pinheads and paint a picture of their grandmother on every one), "low-craft ironics" (a fancy name for wink-wink nudge nudge), "animated interiors" (apocolyptic scenes of stuff flying around a room), "angry pussy" (stuff made with menstrual blood), and my personal favorite "junk on the floor" (about which Hinton, a big time collector says, "You walk into a gallery and there's stuff strewn everywhere. I've got three of those.") I think I've seen works in all of these categories.
Then there are the moments of just plain wonderful writing. Like when Patrice, the Frenchman who has hopelessly fallen for Lacey, walks with her through the streets of New York. The passage reads like a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany's: beautiful, romantic, with a literary sparkle. And yet, it somehow aches with melancholy: "Madisson Avenue was just beginning to flicker on. They walked down the street, sometimes arm in arm, sometimes with Lacey breaking away to physically exaggerate a point, walking backward, then slue-footing around to take his hand or slip her arm through the crook of his elbow." That's enough to make anyone want to take a chance on love and art in New York City. And to read whatever Martin writes next.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
This year's Christmas stocking is currently in production. But it won't be revealed until Christmas eve. A hint: I've returned to plagiarizing the stars of the fine art world.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
All that said, there are a few things that are starting to make me appreciate the iPad, and most of those things are the apps. It's proof that when you give a so-so product to a bunch of inventive techno wizards, you get some really amazing results. A couple of my favorites include the Glee app and the Scrabble app. But the app that has me all abuzz is the Museum of Modern Art's (MoMA) new app developed in conjunction with it's current exhibit, Abstract Expressionist New York (Ab Ex NY). The app is free and you can download it here.
Now I'm not the biggest fan of Abstract Expressionism but I'd love to see this show which boasts some of the best artists from the middle of last century. Unfortunately, I may not make it to NYC before this show closes on April 25, 2011. That's why I want to say thanks to the curators at MoMA for offering such a great way to experience the show digitally. The Ab Ex NY app let's you browse the show. When you select a specific work, you can get more info about the artist and the painting or sculpture. Plus, you can zoom into the high-res photos and get a decent idea of what the paint looks like on the canvas; or the texture of the finish on sculptures. It's still not like seeing the real thing, but it's a lot better than any other reproduced format I've experienced.
Plus there are plenty of other goodies. You can watch engaging videos about the artists and their works. There's a great interactive map of New York City that relates the exhibit to the city itself, showing you where the artists lived and worked or where you can see other works by the artists featured in the exhibit. You can even shop for Ab Ex NY art books and merchandise directly from the app.
Beatifully art directed and ingeniously organized, I give MoMA's Ab Ex NY app a big thumbs up. And I hope other museums will take a cue from thismake it possible to enjoy other exhibits
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
This is a story of a of recreational time machine repairman. Not just any recreational time machine repairman, but one that happens to be the son of the man who invented the time machine in is his garage. The main character, Charles Yu (yes that's the same name as the author), spends much of his time in a tiny time machine traveling the decades with the help of his scroungy dog and his personified Microsoft operating system, Tammy. (Yes, at some time in the future, Microsoft makes its operating system available for time machines.) Tammy is one of my favorite characters. She's always a little depressed and maybe even suicidal, which leaves Charles wondering what happens if your time-machine operating system decides to end it all. When Charles realizes he may be too distant from the present to get his machine back in time for needed repairs, Tammy wonders, "Is it my fault?" When Charles replies that it's his fault Tammy asks hopefully, "Is it my fault that it's your fault?"
There are plenty of other delightful characters and stories in How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe to make it a super fun read. I won't pretend to have understood all the mind-bending, time-traveling technology outlined in this book. But maybe I wasn't supposed to understand it. I mean it is science fictional after all.
The bigger surprise is the book's more subversive, serious side . It's that side of the book that is most rewarding. How to Live Safely talks about time travel from a perspective of past tense, present tense, and future tense, giving it a literary bite that gets under your skin. At one point Charles puts his machine into present-indefinite gear which, "isn't even a real gear. It's like cruise control." It's through this lens of grammatical time that Yu asks the reader to ponder his or her own life. Are we all stuck in a time loop? Do we avoid our past because we don't want to think about something difficult? Are we too afraid of the future to really move forward? Don't read this book if don't want to face some pretty big philosophical questions. Do read this book if you want the fun of a great science fiction story combined with the angst-filled philosophy of Kirkegaard.
I'll close with a passage from the book:
"How many times have I gone around this loop, refusing to move forward? How much of my life have I spent cycling through these events, trying to learn from them, attempting to decipher the meaning of this tableau in front of me. . . What is this called, what I am doing, to myself, to my life, the wallowing, this pondering, this rolling over and over in the same places of my memory, wearing them thin, wearing them out? Why don't I ever learn? Why don't I do anything different?"
Monday, November 29, 2010
I have two observations about the book. First, it's tragic. Epically tragic. Horrifically tragic. In fact just when you think it can't get any more tragic, it gets more tragic. Some of that misery felt heavy handed and overworked.
But the tragedy leads me to my second observation: Maybe we need a little heavy-handed, hit-you-over-the-head-with-its-horror story telling when it comes to the travesties occurring in Nigeria and other areas of Africa. I regularly read holocaust stories that are tragic. Epically tragic. Horrifically tragic. And somehow they don't seem as annoying. Maybe that's because they happened in the past and I can soothe my conscience by thinking I would have done the right thing if I'd been alive at that time. But I'm alive in a time when terrible things are happening to entire populations in Africa and around the globe. And this book makes me wonder if I'm doing the right thing. Do I even know what the right thing is? Have I spent enough time to educate myself about the situation? So while the tragedy of this book can be uncomfortable, it at least made me want to be more aware of difficult global situations so that if and when the opportunity arises, I might be more likely to do the right thing.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The book follows the life of Serge Carrefax, from his unusual birth, through his service in World War One, to a drug fueled college career, and on to a return to government service with a stint in Egypt. I picked this book up because a reviewer I respect gave it high marks and called it "strenuously intellectual." I took that as a reading challenged and expected a book that would be difficult, but hopefully rewarding.
What I didn't expect was a book that was delightful and beautiful. Sure, there are a lot of historical, philosophical, and scientific references in this book that went right over my head. I'll bet there are a whole grundle of references that I didn't even know were references. But you can read this book on other levels.
For example, you can read C just for the stories. I loved the opening section about Serge's childhood and growing up in a quirky British family. We meet his father Mr. Simeon Carrefax, a brilliant character. He's a tinkerer of early wireless technologies who receives a delivery of copper wires in the same wagon that brings the doctor who delivers Serge. Carrefax runs a school for deaf children that refuses to allow sign language. All this takes place at the quirky family estate known as Versoie. This is such a wondrous, weird, funny place that I'm considering naming my house Versoie. I might even take to insisting that friends refer to the front yard as the "Mulberry Lawn" and the back yard as the "Crypt Garden." I could grow lime trees and keep bees.
You can also read this book on a literary level. C makes you wish for one of your favorite college literature professors to guide you through the themes. The book crawls with insects that seem to invade the electrically charged story. There's a Kafka-esque merger of bugs and technology and humanity. This is a place where even the fireflies pulse "photically, in dots and dashes." This hints at another of the book's central themes: the buzzing, whirring, electrified technology that drives the character's lives. C takes the early communications technology of the late 19th and early 20 Centuries and uses it to say something about now. Maybe that's because we too find ourselves wrapped up in figuring out a whole new set of communications technologies.
One of the best reasons to read this book is the writing. Tom McCarthy is one talented writer. C offers a dreamy, liquid style that might be pompous if it weren't so beautiful. Even though lush, the writing doesn't gets in the way of the story. Some passages are lyrical, almost poetic and themes emerge and re-emerge in subtle and delightful ways.
Sure, I'm still trying to process the book's fantastical, fever-induced hallucinogenic ending but even that is good reading. So maybe I'll just wander out to the Crypt Garden, check in on the bees, and ponder it all.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
First published in 1947, Hans Keilson's novella Comedy in a Minor Key is a delight. Maybe delight is the wrong word to use to describe a book about World War II. But somehow, this story about a couple who decides to hide a Jewish man from the Nazi's is rewarding in an unexpected way.
I don't want to give too much away about the plot because I hope you'll read the book. Wim and Marie are a loving couple who make significant sacrifices to help save the life of a complete stranger. The result is a tale about people doing what's right, even when they're nervous about their decision. It's a story that reminds us that doing what's right is a reward in itself. But it's also a reminder that doing what's right, doesn't guarantee the rewards that so many stories would have us believe. This novel makes me want to be a better, kinder person, even if being that person creates problems.
Short enough to be read in an afternoon, Comedy in a Minor Key is written in a simple, straightforward style. But that doesn't mean it's simplistic. The structure of the story is intricate and engaging. I'm definitely going to read Keilson's other book that was recently re-released in English.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
|DJ Jesse Walker and Gary Vlasic|
|The program drew a large, hip crowd.|
|One of the Dark Horse/Fallen Shadows performers|
|DJ Jesse Walker|
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
On prescription drug abuse: Life is better when shrouded in a drug-y haze